FOLLOWUP: ‘Improper transactions’ at now-closed West Seattle Licenses under investigation, county says

After we broke the news last week about the abrupt closure of West Seattle Licenses (5048 California SW) at year’s end, we got a tip from a West Seattle resident about a credit-card-number-theft case linked to a former employee. The victim told us they’d been contacted by a state investigator who said it might not have been an isolated case. Now we’ve confirmed that the licensing subagent closed with an investigation under way. From Cameron Satterfield of King County Executive Services, which contracts with subagents:

The state Department of Licensing (DOL) is investigating improper transactions made by employees at the office. DOL investigators provided a report to King County in mid-December detailing the improprieties. Over the next several days, King County connected with WSL ownership regarding the DOL report and next steps.

On December 24, King County issued a contract termination notice to WSL based on the owners failing to provide proper oversight of their employees. Included in that notice was an option to cure the breach of contract. WSL’s plan to cure the breach was due to King County by January 10, and the agency would have been allowed to continue operating until at least then. However, on December 30 WSL confirmed acceptance of the termination notice, and proposed moving forward with contract termination effective December 31. They also elected not to pursue the opportunity to cure. The WSL office subsequently closed at the end of business on December 31. The investigation is ongoing, but expect it will wrap up soon since WSL has now closed.

We are working on obtaining records related to the case mentioned in the tip we received.

In the meantime, Satterfield reiterates that the county is continuing to seek a replacement for West Seattle Licensing: “A new licensing subagent will be appointed for the West Seattle/White Center area. We will move as quickly as possible on that process, but it still may take a couple of months at minimum.” The opening will eventually be posted here.

48 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: 'Improper transactions' at now-closed West Seattle Licenses under investigation, county says"

  • Steve January 7, 2020 (5:14 pm)

    Wow!  They’re saying multiple employees were involved in credit card theft?  I hope they are prosecuted!

  • Diane January 7, 2020 (6:00 pm)

    I was shocked a few days ago to see a post on FB in WS Connection where a couple folks in comments said they had been contacted by investigators about ID theft, credit card theft,  and theft of cash; and were told by investigators that multiple staff were stealing from customers at this location; I’ve always had excellent experience at this office, so it was really surprising to learn this was happening, but certainly explains the abrupt shutdown of this office

  • WS person January 7, 2020 (6:04 pm)

    I’m not proud of it, but I’m feeling a little bit of schadenfreude. Nothing but the worst customer service. I avoided that place. Happy to hear there will be a replacement!

    • Maria January 8, 2020 (10:14 am)

      There were some very helpful staff there that have hand-held us though multi-step transactions.  I don’t think their job is easy as they try to keep the line moving while we all had different types of questions.   I can tell you that I simply made one stern employee laugh and the transaction got so much better.

  • Mr J January 7, 2020 (6:59 pm)

    If it wasn’t for Tracy and WSB receiving the tip about “improper transactions,” we might have never known the reason for the sudden closure. Thank you for WSB, Tracy.

    The person responsible for the “improper transactions” clearly never practiced the adage “don’t 💩 where you eat.” I hope it was worth losing their job and shutting down a much-needed licensing location.

  • Terribly Quirk January 7, 2020 (7:20 pm)

    I have purchased my tabs there for years.  Gulp. 

    • Graciano January 8, 2020 (4:49 am)

      I think you’d know it by now if there was anything fraudulent going on in your bank account.

  • AJP January 7, 2020 (7:21 pm)


  • Alki resident January 7, 2020 (7:44 pm)

    Would love to hear more about this. Nothing about that place surprises me, the ladies were never friendly in there. 

    • waikikigirl January 8, 2020 (11:17 am)

      You don’t have to be friendly to be honest…

      • Dave January 8, 2020 (1:01 pm)

        No, but being a customer service business, they should have a modicum of friendliness.  They were rude just for the sake of being rude. 

  • Helpermonkey January 7, 2020 (7:45 pm)

    Isn’t that also why the White Center agency shut down?

    • WSB January 7, 2020 (8:28 pm)

      Here’s what we reported on our WC site 4 years ago.

    • dsa January 7, 2020 (9:36 pm)

      I don’t know why WC was closed but I did know someone who knew someone who knew an employee at WC who could manage a workaround to emission testing.  I doubt that person would be allowed employment at WS.

      • couldntresist January 7, 2020 (10:35 pm)

        “My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with a girl who saw Ferris pass-out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.”

      • Pilsner January 8, 2020 (11:18 am)

        Emissions waiver is/wasn’t hard. It used to be $150 of emissions related work, and they waive the test requirement.

  • KD January 7, 2020 (8:40 pm)

    What I don’t understand or get is that the only way of payment was either cash or check.. no credit or d edit cards could be used (that’s why that small ATM machine inside there past the line ropes.) So, how did they have access to any credit or debit numbers anyhow??

    • rpo January 7, 2020 (10:36 pm)

      I used a credit card at the WS DOL office twice in the past two years. They charged a convenience fee, but it was allowed. 

    • JeffK January 8, 2020 (9:41 am)

      I wonder if interior security cameras could see PINs being entered on the ATM.

  • Jon Wright January 7, 2020 (9:06 pm)

    Maybe privatising government functions isn’t the panacea it is sometimes made out to be.

  • Yma January 7, 2020 (9:34 pm)

    I’m saddened to hear of this.i have to report that I’ve always had courteous service when I went in there. Our tabs were processed there for over a decade.

  • dsa January 7, 2020 (9:42 pm)

    When did credit cards become a thing at licensing agencies?  I have always made my personal check out to DOL, no credit card involved.  That said I quit going to WS well over ten years ago.  They insisted I fill out a personal information form, name, address, drivers license maybe, too much.  I balked, left and went to Ballard, no form there,   just friendly knowledgeable people.

  • 1994 January 7, 2020 (10:26 pm)

    Good old fashion snail mail works for me. I like to support the US Postal Service and the County employees.

  • brian January 7, 2020 (10:54 pm)

    So if you have tabs waiting to be picked up at this location, where do you think you can now pick them up?

  • Mar January 8, 2020 (12:00 am)

    I also always had swift, efficient and friendly service here. Sad to see the business go, due to one human making very bad choices.

    • rpo January 8, 2020 (3:49 am)

      It doesn’t appear to be just one rogue employee. 

  • Bob January 8, 2020 (5:58 am)

    I read this and thought of this saying.  Proverbs 20:11 Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

  • michelle charon January 8, 2020 (6:06 am)

    You could use debit if you purchased online but not in the office as I recall.

  • Anthony Jolley January 8, 2020 (6:37 am)

    I never had a problem with anyone there. The last couple of times, I lined up and then remembered that I can pay for my tabs online and just pick them up there a couple minutes later, so that’s what I did.

  • Duke M. January 8, 2020 (7:51 am)

    This was the fastest DOL around and now it’s closed down? I hope before summer is in full swing, they have a replacement agent/contract in-place. I would hate to have to deal with the one in Westwood Village again. The one on California Avenue was always available within 30 minutes anytime I felt ready to renew tabs.

    • Rob January 8, 2020 (10:53 pm)

      I take a quick trip down to burien. Have never had to wait in line there. 

  • JeffK January 8, 2020 (9:44 am)

    What’s puzzling to me is that a business would be faced with either deal with a thieving employee (fire and report to authorities) or lose their state contract and shut down.  And they chose to shut down and put their other employees out of work.Maybe the owner was ready to retire.

    • rpo January 8, 2020 (1:52 pm)

      The issue is that it was not just one employee that was ripping off customers, and it is very likely that the shutdown was not their choice.

  • KM January 8, 2020 (9:56 am)

    I remembered that once I was registering a new car at this location and they tried to fudge numbers for me to pay less–I felt like they were setting me up.

    • dsa January 8, 2020 (2:46 pm)

      Are you sure you weren’t at WC?  They used to help save sales tax when possible.

  • Pilsner January 8, 2020 (11:02 am)

    This is great news. They gave me the run around about a home built trailer title. Caused me a bunch of unnecessary extra trips to WSP and that location. I made a complaint to the wa.dol site. Thats all I have to say with using bad words. P.S. Siler in Burien is awesome!

  • Marlud January 8, 2020 (11:36 am)

    My immediate and extended family have used this service location for decades and have had only positive and helpful experiences with staff. Unfortunately opportunity for theft and fraud exist with every transaction wherever purchases or info exchange occurs regardless of due diligence and oversight. 

  • Admiralsdv January 8, 2020 (12:10 pm)

    Interesting; government agencies actually doing their job to make sure citizens are safe. For all of you West Seattle curmudgeons that chose to lambast the city and county when the initial news broke, I hope the crow tastes terrible. It’s safe to say that real people work for the government and the vast majority are actually trying to do a good job. 

    • rpo January 8, 2020 (1:51 pm)

      Nicely said.

  • Deb January 8, 2020 (3:06 pm)

    I had a very pleasant car tab pick up experience yesterday at the Georgetown licensing office. Staff was courteous and friendly, and the process was very efficient. FYI – Michigan WB between East Marginal Way and the Bridge has construction going on creating area wide back ups. Take another route west if you can. 

  • Geraldine January 9, 2020 (1:23 pm)

    I was sorry to see the West Seattle office close. I went to the Georgetown licensing agency and had a great (fast and friendly) experience completing my title change. It was worth the drive.

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